In remote, almost desert-like surroundings on the far side of the Falgu River, 12km northeast of Bodhgaya, sit the Mahakala (or Dungeshwari) Caves, where Buddha did the severe penance that resulted in the familiar image of him as a skeletal, emaciated figure. After years of extreme self-denial at Mahakala, he realized its futility and walked down to Bodhgaya, where he achieved nirvana. A short climb from the base of the impressive cliff leads to a Tibetan monastery and the small caves. A Buddhist shrine inside the main cave is run by Tibetans, although a Hindu priest has set up in competition.

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